Pershing County's Mariana Espinoza defends against Fernley.
Pershing County's Mariana Espinoza defends against Fernley.
The Pershing County soccer team surprised themselves on Monday, Oct. 28, senior night at PCHS. 

They expected to enjoy their last game of the season, and they did. But they also wound up beating Fernley 1-0. 

Along the way, the Mustangs said farewell to six seniors.

Pershing County ended the year at 6-14-1 overall, and 4-9-1 in the 3A Northern 'B' division.

Earlier in the season, Lovelock traveled to Fernley and lost 6-1, giving up three goals in the first 15 minutes.

“We were trying a new lineup,” said Eva Matuszyk, the assistant coach. “I guess our old one would have worked out fine because we ended the season with a win.”

Fernley dominated most of the senior night game. For the majority of the night, they had the ball on the Mustangs' side of the field. They played with aggression executing elegant passes and shots, as expected of the third-ranked team in the league.

But the Mustangs countered. Haylie Leavitt defended Pershing County’s goal with tenacity. 

“Our defense played fearlessly, and our offense found the little bit that we needed to get a goal,” said Matuszyk.

The home crowd went wild when Kylee Fuller, a sophomore, scored a goal for Pershing with an assist from Ana Paredes. The duo each made the league’s top ten for overall points scored.

“This assist was important because Ana did something we’ve been working on all season,” said Matuszyk. 

Coaching high school soccer players to look up when they dribble the ball is a constant challenge. Paredes looked up and found a pass. Fuller followed up with a shot on the goal for Pershing.

Defensively, Cassidy Burke, Cora Trowbridge, Connie Kersnowski and Mariana Espinoza teamed up and forced Fernley to attempt off-target shots. 

The Pershing County defenders interfered with each of Fernley’s plays.

Espinoza got yellow-carded for playing “a little too tough,” according to the assistant coach.

“The time out gave Mariana a moment to breathe and go back in with a clear head,” said Matuszyk.

Later, the coaches noticed Mariana’s side of the field heating up again. They made a switch to prevent Fernley from getting a free kick near the goal. Kyle’ Tupa stepped up to play the position to end the game. 

“Kyle’ knows the game and field well, so it’s easy to trust putting her anywhere,” said Matuszyk. “The whole season was fun, but winning against Fernley at the end was special.”

Six team members graduate this spring. Coach Matt Fuller reflected on each of their accomplishments.

Gabby Beltran and Jessica Martin managed the team for the past two years, taking video, keeping stats and handling all managerial duties.

Cassidy Burke, Ana Paredes, Kyle’ Tupa and Haylie Leavitt each brought unique strengths to the soccer field.

Burke was a captain during her junior and senior years. She played a tough position, the defensive line in the middle. 

“This year, Cassidy took a more vocal and active role leading the team,” said Coach Fuller. “The ladies rallied around her and listened when she spoke.”

Paredes served as captain her senior year. She scored 11 goals and had nine assists on goals this season. Ana played mostly on attack and sometimes on the defensive line.

“Ana grew as a player and person over the past four years,” said the coach. “She made sure to include every player during practice and games.”

Tupa showed versatility on the soccer field.

“It didn’t matter where Kyle’ played, what position or if we had to change her mid-game,” said Fuller. “She wanted to help her team any way she could.”

Leavitt served as Pershing’s goalkeeper for the past two years. This season she racked up 152 saves over 23 games.

“Haylie will be difficult to replace because of her positive attitude, great outlook and hard-nosed play in the goal box,” said Fuller. “She stopped shots that would have gone in on other players.”

 Seven freshmen, three sophomores and a junior rounded out Pershing’s young team. 

Paredes, Fuller, Tavis Hunt and Anna Jimenez played midfield. Tupa, Riley Soliman and Hannah Gonzalez were forwards.

Karla Jimenez, Julie Chandler and Brenda Zaldivar attacked and pressured the defense of the opposing teams. 

“The ladies worked hard, played as a team and never gave up regardless of the score,” said the coach. “The upperclassmen helped the younger players learn varsity level soccer. We’ll miss this year’s team, but they did an excellent job setting  us up for years to come.”